Well, Rocky wound up beating Apollo Creed. From Chris Hansel:
Do you think this new-look Cavs team could beat Golden State in The Finals?
Any team with LeBron James on it can beat any other team, so, yes. Would they? That would depend on a) how well Jae Crowder shot the ball in this hypothetical series; the Warriors would surely help off of him; b) whether Cavs coach Tyronn Lue went with Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love at center in the small-ball lineup he’d have to put out there for long stretches, and how effective that lineup would be against the Hamptons Five; c) if Engaged J.R. Smith or Indifferent J.R. Smith showed up; d) whether Derrick Rose was effective against the Warriors’ backups; I am assuming a healthy Isaiah Thomas, who would start, for purposes of this argument. That’s a lot that would have to go right for the Cavs. My guess is that all of that wouldn’t happen.
The one man gang. From Jason McElwee:
I recently had a convo with my 17-year-old daughter, Jessica, who mentioned that LeBron in LA makes no sense for his basketball brand because he will be in the formidable West with a stronger Golden State, Houston, San Antonio and Minnesota!
Do you think the LA marriage makes sense or is worth it, even with an extra superstar, only to find marital unBliss with 6th,7th, or 8th seed in the West and possible first-/second-round exits and movie deals?
Would a better fit be teaming up in Philly in 2018, (city similar to Cleveland), with young, but talented, roster of Simmons (protégé), Joel (the process), Fultz and Redick? Keep in mind, LeBron has only won rings in the East, and to continue the streak of Finals appearances and possible ring(s) the Eastern conference has been good to his brand of winning even without movie deals etc.
For most mortals, Jessica’s thinking would be correct. But LeBron is a different kind of person. I think he’s as close to a truly “free” person as there is in the world today. He’s won championships, including the most important one — the one for Cleveland. So mentally, the burden of delivering that title to Northeast Ohio has been lifted. And he certainly isn’t constrained by money or other off-court worries.
He can go anywhere he wants to live and play with anyone he wants, because he knows he’s still good enough to take just about any team to The Finals. So the only question for him will be, what’s the best collection of supporting talent that can help him get there? And that’s why I can’t rule out him staying in Cleveland if Thomas gets healthy and LeBron likes what Crowder brings to the table. (Also: it’s like the entirety of humanity has forgotten that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are still on the roster.)
Wedding Crashers. From Van Deriquito:
Which team can spoil the predicted ECF between Cleveland and Boston?
Right now, I’d say Toronto. Really liked what the Raptors did this offseason. C.J. Miles was an underrated pickup for them who could be a huge help when Dwane Casey goes to smallball lineups; can you imagine the havoc that Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Miles, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka could create for opposing defenses? Adding Miles (41 percent on threes last season) to a team that was already top half in the league in three-point percentage could take Toronto from good to near elite in what is now one of the NBA’s most important stats. I love the Wizards’ starters but am still not convinced about their bench; I love the Bucks’ length and defensive chops but still don’t see quite enough shooting for them to really scare teams.
Waiting is the hardest part. Really. From M. Scott Logel:
I am a Seattle resident and am one of the many fans desperate for the Sonics to return. Your article was well done covering all the factions, power players and issues that can make or break the creation of an NBA team. The ending of your article especially rang true, and was loud and clear. That is…nobody in Seattle knows what the NBA supports, what they prefer, etc., etc.
The question I hope you can answer is whether the previous iterations of NBA expansions and relocation of teams was this “difficult” and “vague” and non-committal (borderline unsupportive sometimes). Saying things like it’s not currently being discussed and considered (i.e. on the agenda) by the NBA owners, and even if they did “support” it it’s not going to happen anytime in the next 5 to 10 years, is almost like saying just forget about it because it’s not worth the effort. With that kind of extreme aloofness, we don’t see why local politicians and financial backers will continue to pursue it. It seems the NBA could care less about the things all the people and players in Seattle are trying desperately to do. Was the NBA this disconnected and non-supportive prior to previous expansions and team relocations?
I can’t speak to the ‘70s or early ‘80s, Scott — I wasn’t covering the league yet when the Kings moved from Kansas City to Sacramento in 1985. But I’d say things are different now, just because the money of franchise valuations is so, so huge. Expansion will thus be incredibly difficult to pull off for any city. Existing owners are just not all that excited about splitting up this enormous financial pie; they’re going to have to be convinced (which, ultimately, will take a nine-figure check made out to them).
It’s not directed at Seattle per se; they have the same opinion about Vegas or Louisville or any town that’s looking to get in on the action. Having said that, I do believe that owners like Seattle and would support a relocation of an existing team there if that situation ever comes to pass in the coming years. Expansion will just take a little longer.
What’s in a name? From Vincent Chau:
Being Chinese and spending most of my school years in the UK, I have had my fair share of experience with racial stereotyping and discrimination. Therefore, I have the utmost respect for you and NBA players who use your positions of influence to raise awareness on the issue. However, the prevalent sexism in the NBA also require attention…Charles Oakley made a comment about NBA players today being “soft” and some of them should be wearing “dresses”. While Mr. Oakley is entitled to his opinion on the toughness of today’s player, I find it unacceptable that he linked people who wear dresses, which I assume he meant women, to being “soft”. A person’s sex or choice of fashion has got nothing to do with the person’s abilities, physical and mental. Wearing a skirt in a tennis game does not make Serena Williams less capable or less of a “tough” athlete.
What I find even more disconcerting is that if a similar comment were made on racial stereotypes, the media would be all over it. However, it seems that many NBA players and members of the media just accepted Mr. Oakley’s comment as another rambling of a ex-NBA legend. If it is not okay to describe Mr. Luol Deng as “having some African in him,” it is also not okay to say people who are “soft” should be wearing dresses.
Send your questions, comments and snack ideas for the guest who stays way too late at the pool party to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
BY THE NUMBERS
648,000,000 — Amount in U.S. dollars — if I did the current conversion rate correctly — that Canada’s Scotiabank announced last week it would pay over the next 20 years for the naming rights to what is now Air Canada Centre, starting next July. It should come as no surprise that Scotiabank seems more interested in its new partnership because of the connection to the NHL’s Maple Leafs, who also play in Air Canada, rather than the NBA’s Raptors; Scotiabank is the official bank of the NHL. The airline has had naming rights to the building since 1995.
38 — Total games played in Washington and Brooklyn last season by Andrew Nicholson, officially waived via the stretch provision last week by the Trail Blazers. Portland had no plans to keep Nicholson after acquiring him in July from Brooklyn in the deal that sent Allen Crabbe to the Nets; by getting Crabbe off of their books and stretching Nicholson’s remaining $20.185 million salary over the next seven years as allowed by cutting him before Sept. 1, the Blazers will potentially save more than $40 million in luxury tax payments next year.
863 — Days since Quincy Pondexter has played in an NBA game, as of today. The forward was acquired by the Bulls last week from New Orleans; he hasn’t played since the end of the 2014-15 season because of left knee injuries that have required three separate procedures in the interim. The Pelicans sent their second-round pick in next year’s Draft to Chicago with Pondexter for the Draft rights to Ater Majok, the former UConn forward who’s spent most of his pro career playing overseas since being taken by the Lakers in the 2011 Draft. Trading Pondexter and his $3.8 million salary for next season gives New Orleans a little bit of breathing room as it attempts to avoid being hard capped next season; the Pelicans had almost $117 million in salary committed before the deal. New Orleans opted not to waive oft-injured center Omer Asik via the stretch provision; Asik has two-seasons and a player option year through 2020 at more than $34 million remaining on his contract.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) J.J. Watt, you’ve made a fan for life.
1A) Along those lines, I want to come up with a meaningful way to lend aid to the people and families in Houston and the surrounding areas whose lives have been turned upside down. (Links here, here and here to some of the myriad organizations with whom you can donate with a click, if that is the best way for you to help.) I didn’t want to rush something through in a couple of days, so let me muse on it for a while and I will get back to you in the next week or so. And if you have a good idea you think I could be of assistance with, e-mail me at email@example.com.
2) A great and meaningful contribution by USA Today to the ongoing, never-ending education all of us need about severe mental-health issues facing athletes of all stripes and successes. Among those who spoke openly with the paper about their struggles were Hall of Famer Jerry West, WNBA guard Imani Boyette (the sister of Golden State’s JaVale McGee) and former NBA player Royce White, now playing in Canada. We all have so much to learn, and the hope is that the NBA can come up with a comprehensive mental health policy that better serves the players, coaches and others in the league that are suffering so acutely.
3) Congrats to Team USA and Jeff Van Gundy, which came back from 20 down on the road in Argentina Sunday night to beat the host Argentines for the gold medal at the FIBA AmeriCup, a comeback that took a lot of guts. This team wasn’t comprised of the cream of the NBA crop; it was a lot of G League guys like Xavier Munford and Reggie Hearn and Jameel Warney, who was named the tournament’s MVP.
4) Congrats on six-plus years of sobriety, Vin Baker. Please continue living your truth.
5) I’m not a big college football fan. But I do live in Washington, D.C., where Howard University, the famous HBCU, is located. (I was born in Howard University Hospital, which is on the site of the old Griffith Stadium where the old Senators and Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues played from the 20s through the 50s.) And it’s so cool to see that the Bison — a 45-point underdog (!) when they took the field Saturday at UNLV, persevere on the rod and pull off the improbable upset, which was apparently the biggest against the point spread in the history of college football. (A $100 bet on Howard before the game would have returned $55,000.)
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) I love how people with 40 bucks to their name think a $500,000 fine is “peanuts” and “chump change.” Yes, the Lakers are a multi-billion dollar franchise. But the fine levied by the NBA last week against the team means something. By definition, it’s an indication that the Lakers had some kind of improper contact with Paul George’s agent regarding his future with the team while he was still under contract with the Pacers. What it is not is a smoking gun. There was, evidently, no written or audio proof unearthed by the outside legal firm handling the tampering case filed by Indiana that the team or George’s agent confirmed a desire by either that the All-Star wanted to play or would play for Los Angeles in 2018, when he becomes a free agent. It would thus be quite difficult, as some have proposed, that the NBA bar the Lakers from signing George next summer. To me, it’s the difference between the burden of proof in a criminal and a civil trial. Did the Lakers tamper with George, now with the Thunder? The evidence sure looks that way. But there’s no actual proof — no murder weapon, no taped confession. Unfortunately for the Pacers, the NBA seemed to view this case from the criminal rather than civil prism. Cold comfort to Indy, I know.
2) If this is the end of STAT’s playing days, it’s been an amazing ride. Good luck in whatever you do next, Amar’e.
3) RIP, Rollie Massimino, architect of one of the great upsets in college basketball history, when his Villanova team beat Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game. Didn’t know Coach Mass as well as others, but he cut a wide swath throughout the basketball world and impacted the lives of so many young men in a positive way, at Villanova and his other stops over the years.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
i dropped out, I had a job opportunity
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) August 25, 2017
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5), responding to a troll on Twitter who made a crack about Durant’s “Texas education.” I suspect that at some point, KD will go back to school and work on getting his degree — which he can then put on a shelf next to his Finals MVP trophy, next to the vault that has eleventy billion dollars in it.
THEY SAID IT
“We’re not going to have the worst defense in the league this year. That’s something that I think we’re all working on but me especially. We need to fix that.”
— Lakers forward Larry Nance, Jr., to Spectrum SportsNet, on an individual goal he has for himself and the team this season.
“We understand the dynamics of what we need for the shoes to be made and get them to our warehouse. The way social (media) is and how platforms are set up with Instagram and Facebook. It’s the perfect time for us to be able to sell the products we have. People can buy products so fast with just three or four clicks. It’s amazing for us with impulse buying. The timing couldn’t have been better for us.”
— Former NBA player Stephon Marbury, during a Q&A session last week at NYU for incoming students, discussing the relaunch of his Starbury brand last year. Marbury famously launched the shoes in 2006 at much more affordable prices (most under $15) than bigger name brands like Nike and adidas. The brand was discontinued in 2009. By way of comparison, Marbury said selling the new Big Baller Brand ZO2 shoe of Lakers Lonzo Ball for as much as $500 a pair was “kind of brainless” and could lead to violence if kids wearing the expensive shoes get robbed.
“I was playing basketball…every day for two hours. Like, I played an hour of basketball before I played (2013 French Open runner-up) David Ferrer in the semifinal. I was…getting a milk shake every day. I was less dedicated. And this week I was dedicated — and my shoulder starts hurting.”
–Tennis player Nick Kyrgios, after his loss at the U.S. Open last week, in a rather rambling post-match meeting with reporters in which he lamented his own lack of desire to become an elite player in his sport. The basketball workouts came as Kyrgios improbably reached the finals of the Cincinnati Masters, a pre-Open hardcourt tournament in early August. After losing to John Millman last week, Kyrgios said he’s “letting people down” and that he’s “not dedicated to the game (of tennis) at all.”
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